The evening was dark, cloudy, and stormy…not to mention frightening. Shortly after midnight, flashes of lightning were the only thing that lit up the sky. In Alabama, even a forecast of severe weather grabs our attention. Its arrival strikes a chord of fear in our hearts, and sets our nerves on edge. Our imaginations can run wild, but rightfully so. Two years ago this month, only a few miles from where I live, 23 people lost their lives in a Sunday afternoon of tornadoes.

So, last week, with the possibility of tornados throughout the night, we expected to be awake most of the night. The storms arrived in Montgomery, an hour west of us, much earlier than predicted. They were headed our way, but did not appear to be as bad as had been expected. I stayed up longer than normal, but eventually, after I made sure my severe-weather alert was turned on, I turned the lights out, said a prayer for safety, and turned in. It was not the weather alert that woke me, but an unusual and eerie noise in the wee hours of the wet-and-windy night did. First, I thought the sound came from inside the house, then determined it came from right outside our front door. After wrestling with my inner voice about whether to find my protection and go see what monster lurked at my door, I decided the culprit was only a scared cat. I decided to stay put in the safety of my warm and dry bed. The sound was unusual, because we don’t have a cat, and I didn’t know of any nearby neighbors who did either. Finally, I dismissed the noise and went back to sleep. The next morning, I asked Jean if she had heard that cat wailing in the night. I’m not sure exactly who she was talking about, but she said something about somebody being crazy. I was beginning to wonder if I had been dreaming, or if Jean’s assessment might be correct. Then, when I opened the door, in the safety of daylight, there stood a big-beautiful blonde…actually, a big yellow-tabby cat! I had never seen him before and had no idea where he had come from. Later that day, I learned that he was well known in the area, and that his name was Fritz. Fritz and I became well acquainted. Without invitation, Fritz welcomed himself into our house. He promptly took the self-guided tour of both the downstairs and upstairs, before I herded him back outside. Later that morning, I went to “piddle” in my woodshop, so Fritz decided to take that tour too. I had hoped that Cocoa (15) would become a shop dog, but because of the noise, she showed no interest. Cats are often spooked easily, but not Fritz. He applied to become the shop cat.

We posted a picture of our new friend on social media and someone recognized him right away. He lives a half-mile from our house, so Drew and I loaded him up in my truck to take him home. Fritz decided he preferred to ride on the dash, rather than in the seat. He stretched out up there like a giant bobble head, reaching halfway across the truck. His owners apologized for Fritz’s visit. They laughed and said he was quite popular, and that several other families claimed him as their own. Fritz has been back to visit several times since then. After a year of not getting to spend time with friends and family, it was nice to make some new neighborhood friends…including Fritz.

— Bill King is a native of Rainsville, where he and his wife graduated from Plainview High School. King is a director of missions in Opelika, a writer, musician and author. His column appears in the Times-Journal weekend edition. Visit brobillybob.com for more information.

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